It’s been a dizzying month for Xander Schauffele, but wildly rewarding.
Schauffele, 27, won the Olympic gold medal in men’s golf in Japan, has elevated his world ranking to No. 4 and now is trying to win the FedEx Playoffs, which begin with the Northern Trust this week at Liberty National with the first round on Thursday.
As soon as the Olympics ended, he flew to Memphis to play in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and then took last week off to decompress at home and show off his gold medal to family and friends.
Schauffele doesn’t have his prized gold medal with him in Jersey City, though.
“Pops has it,’’ he said Tuesday of his father and coach Stefan. “I can’t get it off of him right now. I had a couple of media things to do with the medal, and then I got a phone call shortly after that [from his dad] asking for the medal back. He is taking good care of it as we speak.”
After his victory in Japan, Schauffele dedicated the medal to his father, who had his Olympic hopes as a decathlete sabotaged when he lost the sight in his left eye after being struck by a drunk driver in 1986. Schauffele’s grandfather, Richard, was the 1935 German track and field champion before being sidelined by a shoulder injury two weeks before the 1936 Olympics.
“This medal is for my country and my family, especially my dad!” Schauffele tweeted following his win in Japan.
Now he has his sights set on the big prize at the end of these PGA Tour playoffs. Schauffele, despite contending a lot, still has not won a major championship. So he’s now envisioning a win this week and then more. He made it clear on Tuesday that he’s not afraid to look ahead at what he might do in a tournament.
“Just recently in Tokyo I was already thinking ahead of what I’d look like with a gold medal on before I even had it, and that worked out well,’’ he said. “I thought to myself, ‘It’s OK to think ahead.’ I have been doing a little bit of reading [and] a quote that stood out to me at one point was just saying that it’s natural to think in advance. It’s just your ability to sort of come back to the present and lock in is sort of what matters.
“Everyone out here, if you get off to a hot start on Thursday, if you have a low round on Saturday, you’re going to be thinking about how well you can position yourself moving into East Lake [for the Tour Championship], but it doesn’t really matter until you sort of handle the deal. For me, instead of sort of trying to bury that thought and not think about it, I just sort of allow it and then try to come back to life whenever I can or as soon as possible.’’
Schauffele called the FedEx Cup Playoffs “probably the most cutthroat golf that we can have in terms of pressure.’’
“Besides the majors and the Players [Championship], which fortunately count towards the FedExCup Playoffs, it’s just the most fun and pressure-packed golf you can have,’’ he said. “We always have so much to play for, and it all comes out of this.’’
After the playoffs come the Ryder Cup next month, something Schauffele is stoke to compete in for the first time.
“If I can just handle the playoffs really well, then the Ryder Cup will take care of itself,’’ he said.
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